THE FIVE CLOSEST BEACHES TO DISNEY WORLD:
AWESOME THINGS TO SEE AND DO!
We all know that Walt Disney World is the most magical place on Earth. It’s also one of the busiest, most stimulating, and most intense places to take a family vacation! When you feel like you need a solid day or two away from the amazing rides, shows, noise, light and motion of Disney World, there’s no place better than the nearby Floridian beaches!
As you’ll see in this list, there’s great variety in the beaches near Disney World, from the wondrous scenes of rocket launches over Cape Canaveral, to the party atmosphere of Daytona, to the Gulf Coast serenity of Clearwater.
Whether you’re traveling just as a couple, with friends, or with the kids, you can enjoy scenic views, delicious seafood, and even the outdoor excitement of surfing at any one of these five beaches, all within a drivable distance from the Disney World Park.
I’ve listed them here in order from closest to furthest from Disney World. All can be reached in normal traffic conditions (even the normally busy traffic of central Florida!) within two hours.
Without further ado, here are the five closest beaches to Disney World! Enjoy, and bon voyage!
Canaveral National Seashore
• 55 miles/88km
• 1 hour
Number one on the list is the Canaveral National Seashore, the closest beach to Disney World. If the natural beauty of Florida is what you desire, look no further: Canaveral is part of the National Parks Service, and as such, these white sandy shores are protected from man-made development. Meaning, apart from very basic bathrooms, there are no surf shops, restaurants, or bars in sight!
Another awesome feature of Canaveral is its proximity to the Kennedy Space Center, a beloved tourism location for adults and kids. Learn all about the history and the future of American space exploration, and witness a rocket launch first-hand! Space X’s Falcon Heavy rocket launched from Kennedy in February 2018, and is poised to have more launches in late 2018 and beyond.
Hence, Canaveral is a great option for either simply sitting and enjoying the peaceful, rhythmic sounds of the waves, and/or watching a powerful and advanced rocket thunder up into the heavens. At the beach itself, you’re also welcome to bring your own picnic baskets, chairs, blankets, parasols etc, of course.
• 71miles/114km from DW
• 70min travel
• 12 miles long
Cocoa Beach is only slightly further from Disney than Canaveral, but offers a very different experience: in addition to long stretches of golden Floridian sand, there are numerous beach bars, restaurants, souvenir shops, and the famous Ron Jon Surf Shop flagship store!
This place caters heavily to tourists, and is an ideal spot to take surf lessons, for you and the kids. In fact, you can take surf lessons and get your first surfboard through the Ron Jon store!
In terms of wildlife, Cocoa Beach is a great spot to see manatees from the shore. There’s also the Jetty Park area, featuring the many activities and eateries of the Exploration Tower, a fishing pier, and rentable pavilions. You and the kids can watch cruise ships pass by as they head out to sea, as you relax and have fun. Cocoa Beach is awesome!
• East coast
• Daytona 500 in February
Daytona is another tourist hub, most famous for NASCAR’s world famous Daytona International Speedway! The Daytona 500 happens in February, meaning the whole Daytona Beach area will be packed to the seams, if you’re thinking of visiting then. (Of course, if you want to make seeing the race part of your Disney vacation too, that’s awesome!)
There are 23 miles of beachfront, with plenty of bustling shops, hotels, bars, and restaurants. One of the interesting and famous traits of this beach is that you’re allowed to drive your car directly onto it! This can be highly convenient for bringing your gear down to the shore, but is also something to keep in mind if you’re at all nervous about your small children being around moving vehicles while on the beach.
In terms of attractions around Daytona besides the world famous racetrack, there’s the Daytona Boardwalk Amusements, (rides, games, etc,) and the Daytona Lagoon water park, which also includes go-karts, mini golf, an arcade, laser tag, and a climbing wall. For more historical sight-seeing, there’s the Dunlawton Plantation and Sugar Mill, much of which is in ruins dating back to the Second Seminole War: it’s a GREAT spot to learn about the unique and often overlooked history that happened so close to these modern tourist hubs.
Coming back to the beach itself though, Daytona is beautiful, busy, and fun. If anyone in your family has mobility issues, the ability to drive down onto the sand is especially useful. Overall, Daytona offers plenty to do for kids and adults, including free concerts in the summer, surfing, para sailing, paddle boarding, and so much more.
• closest Gulf Coast beach
• Calmer water; good for kids. (Atlantic have more waves)
About 10 miles further than Daytona from Disney, but in the opposite direction, Clearwater is a Gulf Coast beauty. The beach presents a great balance between activities to do, and quiet natural bliss. The water in the Gulf is warmer and calmer than the Atlantic, and the beaches are less touristy. The sand is that awesome Florida white, and you’ll find things to do as far as kayaking, fishing at Pier 60, or visiting the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. (Home of Winter the Dolphin!!)
For activities, here are a few highlights. One favorite among kids is Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise, which takes tourists on a replica “pirate ship” along the seashore, with entertainment and refreshments served by costumed actors, and frequent spotting of whales and dolphins. There’s also para-sailing, for thrills and a bird’s eye view of the coast. There are multiple companies for paddle boarding, an active and unique way to experience the water.
If you want somewhere that you can find a quiet place with some shade to relax and watch the kids build sand castles, and then a couple hours later, go kayaking in the ocean or look at exotic fish and baby dolphins, Clearwater is an awesome option!
• 1hr 50min
• 19 miles of golden brown sand
• pet friendly
• local wildlife: turtles, dolphins whales visible off shore with new calves
Closing up the list is Flagler Beach. It’s suitable for a day-trip away from Orlando with its roughly two hour driving time, and is another great spot on the Atlantic side of the state.
Flagler boasts 19 miles of golden brown sand, and tends to be more tranquil than the “Spring Breakish” feel of Daytona or Cocoa. The area is generally pet friendly, and is a great location to see local Florida wildlife, including turtles, dolphins, and even whales! In the winter months, mother whales move to the sunnier waters off Flagler Beach to nurse their calves: these whales are often visible from the shore!
There are excellent golf courses, the North Peninsula State Park, and multiple good fishing spots.
One fun fact is that the town of Flagler Beach itself was a finalist in Budget Travel Magazine’s 2013 contest for the “Coolest Small Town,” with the magazine saying:
“…the area seems to attract more sea turtles and right whales than spring breakers…the six miles of pristine sand – which boast an orange hue thanks to crushed coquina shells – are only interrupted by one fishing pier. In town, the vibe is laid back and retro, thanks to spots like Grampa’s Uke Joint, which sells ukuleles, and High Tides at Snack Jack, a 1950s fish shack that attracts surfers with funky dishes like tuna reubens, ahi club sandwiches, and sake Bloody Marys.”
Definitely accurate! Flagler is a lot less boisterous than Daytona, and has more of that “cool small town” vibe, with great seashore views.
If you had any anxiety over drive times, overcrowdedness, or family friendly things to do at beaches near Disney World, I hope this list has dispelled those worries!
All of these beaches can be reached in a one to two hour drive from Disney World, and all offer a wide range of scenery and activities, depending on your interests.
Whether you’re looking to go all out on surfing, partying, and kayaking, to spot local wildlife, or to simply take in the scenic views and sounds of pristine beachfront, there’s something for everyone at these beaches nearest Disney World.